Language in Jamaica Kincaid's Autobiography of My Mother Essay
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Use of Language in The Autobiography of My Mother
Language. It is the way words flow into sentences, which flow into paragraphs, which flow into novels. It is the ability of the author to create an intricate web of plot, emotion, symbolism, and relationships through only words. In The Autobiography of My Mother , Jamaica Kincaid uses language in a way that is very simplistic, yet highly effective. Her writing is direct and to the point. There is neither flowery wording not complex sentence structure. Without the distractions of overflowing language, the depth of Kincaid's material comes through with particular effectiveness. It is the simplest of writing elements, that of repetition and opposition, that Kincaid uses to create a…show more content…
Xuela is seen as she wants to be seen. There is no objectivity. The only way the reader comes to know and understand Xuela is through her own words and her descriptions of the world around her (Schine 5).
Another distinctive aspect of Kincaid's writing is the author's relentless use of repetition. It is hard to find even a single page of the novel that is not deeply woven with repetition. The phrases "I know" and "I did not know" constantly resonate throughout the novel. As Xuela comments on her father, "That I was a burden to him, I know; that he did not know how to take care of me by himself, or how to clean his own clothes himself, I know" (Kincaid 4). Xuela defines herself by what it is that she knows and what it is she does not know. For her, there is no median. Xuela says she "would rather be all dead or all alive, but never half of one and half of the other" (106). Those around her are either kind or unkind; they are native, or they are foreign; they are sensual, or they are repulsive. It is one way, or the other. There is no "gray" area. Kincaid uses the repetition to emphasize this polarizing characteristic of Xuela.
However, it is the things that Xuela does not know that are truly definitive of her nature. She comments:
At that moment there were so many things I did not know, not including the big thing I did not know, my mother. I did not know my father; I did not know where he was from or whom or what he
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Autobiography of My Mother was written by Antiguan-American Jamaica Kincaid, author of novels, short fiction, and essays. Kincaid's own life experiences living in poverty in Antigua as a child and her position in the world as a woman have been the basis of her novels.
Autobiography of My Mother is different than her other novels because of its style. Unlike her other books which are filled with poetic and flowery language, Autobiography of My Mother is written in a more direct style of prose. The book is pensive and reflective on the protagonist's own life, instead of her relationships.
It is also different than her other novels because of its subject matter. In most of her other books, Kincaid spins a story that depicts a rocky relationship between a mother and a daughter, mirroring her own relationship with her mother as she became less valuable upon the birth of her brothers. Kincaid decided to take a different approach with Autobiography of My Mother. The book actually begins by explianing the death of the protagonist's mother. This is a reflection on a period of Kincaid's life when she went into self-exile. At this time, Kincaid got a job in the United states and was expected to send the money back to her family in Antigua but didn't. She didn't even answer their letters. Instead, she focused on herself and on the life she wanted to build; this is precisely the phase in her life that is reflected in Autobiography of My Mother.